Lot 16
  • 16

A Large Sultanate Qur'an in Bihari Script, Copied by Raji Rahman Dabar Al-Qari, North India, dated 919 AH/1513 AD

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Ink, Gouache and Gold on Paper
Arabic manuscript on thin cream paper, 512 folios, 15 lines to the page written in bold Bihari script in black, blue and gold ink, text block ruled in a double frame of red, blue and gold, verses separated by gold roundels with dotted blue and red borders, large illuminated marginal devices, surah headings illuminated in red, green and blue, the world 'Allah' written in gold, marginal text in red and black ink, opening illuminated double page frontispiece in polychrome and gold, in later morocco binding

Catalogue Note

Pre-Mughal Islamic manuscripts from India are rare, few having survived mainly due to political instability and unfavourable climatic conditions. The present intact Qur'an is particularly rare as it is signed and dated and represents a good example of the vibrancy of Indian Sultanate period manuscript production, in fine condition.

The earliest known Qur'an of this type is from Gwalior, near Delhi, dated 1398 and housed in the collection of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (see S. Canby, Princes, Poets and Paladins: Islamic and Indian Paintings from the Collection of Prince and Princess Sudruddin Aga Khan, London, 1998, pp.106-7, item 76). A further Qur'an is dated 1483 AD, and can be found in the Bijapur Archaeological Museum (MS.912, see M. Brand and G. Lowry, Akbar's India: Art from the Mughal City of Victory, catalogue of an exhibition at the Asia Society, New York, 1985, cat. no.71).

Various features of the present Qur'ans illumination denote the political and cultural ties betwwen North India and Iran. For example, the pink cross hatching surrounding the text on the opening double page and the various floral sprays are indicative of Timurid and Turkoman Qur'ans. However, it is the distinctive Bihari script, remarkable for its contrasting vertical and horizontal letters that set the Indian Qur'ans of the same period apart. This script, probably a relation of Naskh, has obscure origins, but the tradition of copying Qur'ans in this hand appears to have lasted only from the period between the collapse of the Delhi Sultanate at the end of the fourteenth century and the rise of the Mughals in the mid-sixteenth century. 

Other Qur'ans of a similar style to the present manuscript, though smaller in size, exist in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (acc. no. QUR237, see D. James, After Timur, London, 1992, p.104-7, no.28) and the Tareq Rajab Museum (See N. Safwat, The Harmony of Letters: Islamic Calligraphy from the Tareq Rajab Museum, National Heritage Board, Singapore, 1997, p.88). A fifteenth century Sultanate period Qur'an in Bihari script was sold in these rooms 25 April 1991, lot 237.